Victorian MPs recall Beersheba

Community leaders and MPs at the unveiling of an artwork honouring the Diggers of Beersheba in the Victorian Parliament. Photo: Ren Rizzolo.

A COPY of a painting depicting the charge of the Australian Light Horse into Beersheba 100 years ago this week was presented at Victoria’s Parliament House on the October 31 centenary date, with Jewish leaders and state MPs in attendance.

The artwork portraying the mounted Diggers, by military equestrian artists Ron and Jennifer Marshall of Warwick, Queensland, was presented at a reception in Parliament hosted by Sandringham Liberal MP Murray Thompson.

Portrayed in the painting is Jewish Anzac, Major Eric Hyman, who was among the charging riders. Hyman won a Distinguished Service Order for his bravery when he and 13 of his men dismounted and attacked a redoubt of 60 Turkish machine-gunners.

“How did 14 men in the open under no cover kill 60 entrenched Turks? Can you explain that? It was the hand of God,” Jennifer reflected to The AJN.

Honor Auchinleck, a granddaughter of Australian General Sir Harry Chauvel who commanded the Light Horse in World War I, told The AJN she had heard about her famous forebear from childhood, but exploring the sites of the battlefields in later years “brought the story alive” for her.

“It was a journey I needed to do for myself. My parents were terrific in telling the stories, but without maps. Seeing the battlefields makes you imagine what it must have been like … to read my grandfather’s letters … to hear about the dust creeping into everything, the thirst, the hardships,” she said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Graeme Smith, president of the General Sir Harry Chauvel Foundation, spoke of a proposal to name one of the stations in the planned Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel after Chauvel.

The reception was attended by Jewish leaders including Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Anton Block, Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm, Zionism Victoria board member Atida Lipshatz and Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen and Women board member Julie Leder.

In Parliament, MPs led by Thompson, gave members’ statements lauding the history-making charge.

Several Liberal and National Party MPs, including Tim McCurdy (Ovens Valley), Cindy McLeish (Eildon), and Steph Ryan (Euroa) memorialised riders in the charge hailing from their electorates.

Kew Liberal Tim Smith recalled the 31 Australians who gave their lives in the charge. Liberals Wendy Lovell and Georgie Crozier honoured the centenary in the Legislative Council.

On the ALP side, a tribute came from Footscray Labor MP Marsha Thomson, co-convenor of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel.

Caulfield Liberal David Southwick, co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends group, who was in Israel for the Beersheba centenary events, told The AJN: “I am delighted to know this historic and poignant event is being recognised in the Parliament of Victoria and I thank all those involved.”


Full Beersheba coverage is in this week’s AJN commemorative issue.